Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply. – in the House of Commons on 7th June 1937.

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Major Hills:

I agree that we want to get a fair market price for the product. Nobody asks for more than that. On the question of wages, I brought a Minimum Wage Bill for agricultural workers into this House, in conjunction with the late Sir Mark Sykes, in 1910. It was not received with enthusiasm by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was a Member. It did not get beyond introduction. I agree that 1910–11 was a difficult year, and that very big questions were before the Government, but I mention the point to show that our party has never been disregardful of the wages of agricultural workers. I put it to the Committee that we have as good a record as any party in this House. That is largely beside the point, and I will come back to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not see how he could have brought agriculture up and made it prosperous so that the workers would stay on the land, unless he had protected each separate item of the industry. I think you have to do that. It may be that there is now something more to be done; I believe there is, and that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture can do it. There is a great deal to do in respect of the fertility and the draining of the soil and in the more scientific use of the land. That is very important. I believe there are many ways, in which the country can be made self-supporting in peace and in war. I agree that agriculture is the biggest question now before the country. We are vitally concerned with it in peace, and still more in war.

After listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with admiration, and being deeply moved by what he said, I do not see exactly where he would have led us had he been in charge of our agriculture. I have a great admiration for his originality and enterprise, but I think you have to take agriculture part by part and industry by industry. You have to decentralise it, and when you have got the different parts working is the time to see whether an advance to cover the whole of the industry is possible.